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Hemp businesses at risk as Wyoming Legislature considers tighter regulations

Some of the products sold at Platte Hemp Company that would be prohibited under SF0032 - "Hemp-limitations on psychoactive substances" (Stew Dyer / Cap City News)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A bill that would effectively end the market for hemp products containing delta-8 and other THC derivatives has passed its second reading in the Wyoming Senate on Wednesday. The “Hemp-limitations on psychoactive substances” bill would prohibit the sale of “psychoactive analogs” of THC.

Current Wyoming law prohibits products containing more than 0.3% of the trans‑delta 9‑tetrahydrocannabinol molecule — the primary psychoactive component of cannabis. However, there are dozens of compounds in cannabis that produce psychoactive effects, including delta-8, delta-10 and HHCo. The new bill targets those compounds.

Those compounds are synthetically extracted and applied to cannabis plants and sold legally in Wyoming shops. Those shops also sell tinctures, vape liquids and edible products containing those compounds.

Business Impact

Alicia and Sam Watt, owners of Platte Hemp Company LLC, have voiced their opposition to the bill in a letter to Cap City News. The couple’s business, established in December 2018 in Rawlins, was born out of a need for green alternatives to cigarettes and prescription drug addiction, particularly opioids — a crisis that has significantly impacted the state, according to the letter.

“Our mission, initially aimed at addressing nicotine and drug addiction that has plagued our towns, has evolved to recognize the profound benefits offered by the cannabis plant,” the letter states.

Platte Hemp Company, which offers a range of cannabis-derived products compliant with laws regulating THC content, stands to face dire consequences should SF0032 become law.

The bill explicitly prohibits the addition of synthetic substances or other additives to hemp and hemp products. It defines synthetic substance as any synthetic THC, synthetic cannabinoid or other drug or psychoactive substance.

For the Watts and their Platte Hemp Company, the bill’s enactment could spell financial ruin. With five stores across Wyoming and 34 employees, the proposed restrictions threaten to upend a business dedicated to providing healthier alternatives to its community.

“These proposed bills will financially bankrupt Platte Hemp Company, by restricting items that we have currently sold since HB 171 Farm Bill. We will be forced to close our doors,” the letter states.

The possible loss of non-psychoactive products — such as CBD, which also contain non-psychoactive traces of THC — poses another significant concern.

“Why are we exclusively targeting synthetics in the cannabis market when they’re readily available over the counter in vitamins, food, cigarettes, and alcohol?” the Watts argue in their letter.

The bill’s narrow focus on cannabis-related products, they believe, jeopardizes access to safe alternative medicine for many Wyoming residents.

Jeffrey Campbell, owner of Wyoming Organics in Casper, also wrote to Oil City News with similar concerns.

“I have several customers with ailments for MS, to ALS, to Parkinson’s that rely on these products.  There is a true medical need for these products,” Campbell states. “Treat it similar to alcohol and tobacco products. Punish accordingly for violations of that. Do not punish the Good People of this Great State.”

Legislative Process and Outlook

The bill cleared its first reading with a 28–3 vote and was referred to the judiciary committee, where it received a 3–2 vote recommending passage. It passed the Senate on its second reading Feb. 21.

Having passed the second reading in the Wyoming Senate, SF0032 is on track for further consideration. The bill requires one more reading before it can be sent to the Wyoming House of Representatives.

To become law, a bill must pass both chambers of the Legislature in the same form. After the Senate passes it, the bill moves to the House of Representatives. There, it undergoes committee review and floor debate, and may be amended.

If the bill passes the second house without amendment, it is immediately sent on to the governor for approval or veto. If the bill is amended by the second house, however, additional steps are necessary to complete legislative action on the bill.

Its progression through the Legislature has been closely watched by stakeholders on both sides of the issue, with its potential impact on local businesses and consumers at the forefront of the debate.

The fiscal note for the bill on the legislature website states the bill will have “no significant fiscal or personnel impact.”

When asked about the bill and its purpose in an email, Co-Chairman of the Joint Judiciary Committee sponsoring the bill Bill Landen of Casper wrote, “I am not an expert! This hemp legislation comes from a desire to get a handle on what is being sold out there.”

Community Response and Next Steps

The opposition from Platte Hemp Company highlights the broader concern among Wyoming’s business community regarding the bill’s implications. The company has already raised $2,000 in donations to fight the legislation, emphasizing the need for greater awareness and understanding of the cannabis plant’s benefits.

As the bill moves closer to becoming law, the debate over its merits and drawbacks continues to intensify. With significant implications for local businesses, consumers, and the state’s approach to regulating hemp and cannabis products, the outcome of this legislative effort will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on Wyoming’s economic and social landscape.